We, the fans of Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe, are nearing just a month left of waiting for the heroes to come together once again in Avengers: Infinity War. That being said, the last time all of them were really working together was in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Luckily, the eleventh installment in the MCU is the next to be reflected on here at Geek Motivation! Age of Ultron was written and directed by Joss Whedon who returns from the first Avengers film. This review will contain spoilers for the film, so make sure you’ve watched it before continuing on.
The film opens on a shot of Loki’s scepter, a key weapon seen in The Avengers with immense power, especially the ability to control the minds of the heroes and their allies. Its significance is even greater in this film. Not only that, but it is in the hands of HYDRA, specifically Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (first appearing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) at a base in an Eastern European country called Sokovia . Connecting these plot threads intensifies the conflict two fold, hence why no one hero can fLace it alone. Speaking of teamwork, the team is a full-fledged machine, working more cohesively than ever (as seen in the “splash-page”-type shot that follows)
Iron Man crashes into the forcefield and lets out a curse word, which prompts Cap to say “Language!” Thor smashes through enemies, as does the Hulk at simple request. Cap even lets Thor bring the hammer down on his shield, this time to eliminate enemies. Black Widow acts with grace, Hawkeye acts with extreme precision. Jarvis is even more involved (which foreshadows his importance to the plot), looking through satellites and assisting the team through their comms. The fluidity of the team is astounding and definitely reels audiences back in with new and promising action.
The two newcomers are “enhanced” Maximoff twins Pietro and Wanda, better known as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, portrayed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen respectively. They, like Strucker, were introduced in a mid-credits scene of The Winter Solider. They were human residents of Sokovia, experimented on by the power of the scepter. Pietro was charged with super speed and Wanda wielding mental and physical manipulation. They challenge the team when they infiltrate the facility and prove to be pesky for the rest of the film. Wanda, for example, manipulates Stark into seeing the Avengers die and the blame being on him for not doing enough. She sets the plot in motion for Tony to retrieve the scepter, but also utilize its power to create Ultron.
At the start of Tony’s arc back in Iron Man, he sought to stop weapons from falling into the wrong hands by putting them solely in his by means of the suit. By now, he’s gone on to create the Iron Legion and wants to take security to the next level with Ultron. When Jarvis analyzes the scepter, it is discovered that the “jewel” powering it has a mind of its own. Tony sees this as advantageous, his confidence in Jarvis bolstering his hope for Ultron. Looking at the cons, though, magic is a component of the scepter, too and is something that has been both unpredictable and troublesome for the Avengers.
Jarvis is a active when Ultron is successfully created and welcomes him, however Ultron’s awareness is greater than Jarvis. He speaks less rigidly than Jarvis, almost like a human. He wonders why he doesn’t have a body. He takes advantage of all the knowledge at his disposal via the internet to both understand and critique Tony Stark, the Avengers, and the world itself. He even questions Jarvis submitting to Tony’s authority. I thought this was a great introduction to the villain and hits all the marks in achieving self-awareness.
Meanwhile, at the party for the capturing of the scepter/conquering of HYDRA, a slew of the characters of the MCU we’ve seen thus far have a presence. The primary characters of the story are hosting, the characters like War Machine and Falcon are guests, and Pepper, Jane, even Bucky are mentioned at the very least. Stan Lee’s even and drinks some of Thor’s god-like alcohol. It well-establishes the interconnectedness and progression of MCU thus far. It’s no wonder the film slate in bloopers/outtakes read “AFTERPARTY”.
The Avengers have an afterparty of their own, attempting to lift Thor’s hammer, which Captain America is able to budge to Thor’s dismay. They are interrupted by Ultron who says he’s awoken and is not yet in the flesh, continuing to humanize himself. He presents the Avengers with an alternate, yet more destructive path to “peace” which includes their “extinction”. Ultron and the now-reprogrammed Iron Legion attack the Avengers in an interesting fight scene in which the heroes must improvise with their casual setting. He escapes through the internet to Strucker’s facility and an android escapes with the scepter, putting them back at square one.
Going from having fun to having problems, they reflect on what Tony’s done. Tony responds by bringing up the threats they’ve faced. Steve says no matter what the outcome, which Tony believes is failure, they will always fight together. From the hammer to Cap’s attitude, this chunk of the film begins the foreshadowing of the rest of the film and the MCU up to now. It goes to show just how important re-viewing these films is.
In Sokovia, the Maximoff twins find Ultron in his newest form. Ultron, to me, was awkwardly designed. Instead of having a mouth, there should have been just the voice, but I digress. Scarlet Witch was in shock seeing Ultron, as she didn’t expect what would come from what she’d done. Regardless, they share a common enemy because Stark’s weapons killed the rest of the Maximoff family.
Ultron’s presence is made clear to the Avengers as they continue to track him down. They find he is making his way to Wakanda, the source of Vibranium, to upgrade his armor. This brings about the introduction of the location as well as thieving Ulysses Klaue, both attached to the Black Panther mythos that will reveal itself further in years to come for the MCU.
Ultron and twins find Klaue operating a shipment of Vibranium. Ultron says something reminiscent of Stark that strikes Klaue as familiar, but this observation costs him his arm: another set up that is paid off later in the MCU. It is here that the Avengers also confront Ultron and the twins in their first battle.
This is where the twins begin to shine. Although the MCU’s Quicksilver is always going to be subpar to X-Men’s, Scarlet Witch is able to throw many of the Avengers into hallucinations. Hawkeye is an exception having learned from Loki’s mind control in The Avengers. Captain America is taken to the past where he is back with Peggy Carter, Black Widow is back in the Red Room (which is something we’ll hopefully see more of in her solo film), and Thor encounters a blind Heimdall who tells him Thor leads Asgard to Hell. For those that have seen Thor: Ragnarok and have predictions similar to mine about Avengers: Infinity War, this could be a set up for what we may see pay off really soon. Banner is even thrown into rage and obviously turns into the Hulk. If he was having an hallucination, it would have been really cool to see.
The Hulk vs. Hulkbuster fight was something fans had been clamoring to see since the trailers were released. Veronica, better known as the Hulkbuster, is a precautionary machine that Stark and Banner collaborated on in case the Hulk went awry. First, the Hulk is trapped in a cage. If he escapes, Tony must use a suit, which is twice the size of the Hulk, in order to take him down. The amazing features of the suit are what drive the battle, including the ability for limbs to be replaced, limbs to act as finger traps for Hulk’s fists, and gargantuan combat/flight repulsors to get a handle on and subdue the Hulk. With armor this versatile, it’ll definitely be interesting to see if any upgrades have been made in Infinity War.
One of the least favorable parts of the film, in my opinion, is when the Avengers retreat to Barton’s safehouse where they meet his family. Although it assists in Hawkeye’s character arc in this film, grounding him with a family was just awkward in character and for the overall flow of the story. What complicates things even more is Romanoff and Banner’s relationship. Romanoff is a strong, independent female lead and her background makes this apparent. Banner has always loved Betty Ross, and I hope that, if a solo Hulk film is ever made, this romance can be moved on from and Betty can return or Banner can be on his own. Thor departs from the Barton residence to embark on his own mission after the hallucination he experiences. He sees the Infinity Stones, making Thor the first of the Avengers to discover what they are. Stark and Rogers argue about what Stark did, Stark makes the point to end the war before it begins with Ultron while Rogers makes a point at there being a cost for doing just that. This disagreement hints at their conflicting ideals that will only grow into Civil War.
Ultron finds Dr. Helen Cho, who, at the beginning of the film, healed Hawkeye’s wounds by replicating his own living tissue. By the power of the scepter, she is brainwashed into creating a body for Ultron. Key ingredients include Vibranium and even the Mind Gem itself. With life being granted to Ultron, this opens doors for turning points of the plot. Wanda Maximoff, by touching of the cradle holding the body is linked to Ultron’s destructive vision. This causes the twins to put a halt to Ultron’s plans and turn against him for the Avengers to succeed in stealing the body.
Upon splitting from the team to protect the nuclear codes from Ultron, Stark discovers Jarvis also escaped from Ultron the night of his conception. Once again, he thinks he can do right by uploading Jarvis into the synthetic body. He begins to do so, but Cap arrives with the twins to stop it. In Thor’s attempt to get to the gem, he charges the fusion of Jarvis and the body, bringing Vision to life.
I must admit, this moment to me is a controversial one. Tony’s insatiable need to do the unpredictable is too unrealistic in terms of character, even to be explained away as Wanda’s spell. Without it, though, we wouldn’t have Vision. His origin, despite being a chaotic departure from that of the comics, is still unique in the best way to this adaptation. Paul Bettany is granted a physical role in the MCU and is brought to life by Thor’s “vision”. Vision returns the favor taking after Thor’s image. His wisdom is even enough for him to be worthy of the hammer. Overall, this is one of the most memorable moments in the MCU.
The stakes are high in the final battle, as Ultron intends to life and drop part of Sokovia like a meteor to end all life on earth. The action scenes here exceed the precedent that the previous set: utilizing teamwork with witty banter and abilities in the environment, only made more epic given the increased scale of both sides of the conflict. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury and Maria Hill, who have been helping out throughout the film, come to their aid, saving citizens with Helicarriers. War Machine even joins in to take down some of Ultron’s bots.
What stands out from the climax though isn’t the action, but the themes that are brought to the surface by characters. Hawkeye says to Scarlet Witch: none of what they’re going through makes any sense, but if you’re in the fight, you’re an Avenger. Even though Quicksilver isn’t there (as if there was some twin telepathy), this resonates in his sacrifice for Hawkeye, who is bringing a lost boy to the helicarrier. This sends Wanda into a rage that destroys Ultron’s main body. The last of the escaped drones is met by Vision who speaks to Ultron and says that there is grace in the failings of humans and beauty in what does not last.
Other plots threads include the Hulk leaving earth unexpectedly in the Quinjet (later paid off in Ragnarok), a new Avengers facility and team of Avengers (who come to fruition in Civil War), and, in a post-credits scene, Thanos wielding the gauntlet, ready to take care of the universe himself.
Overall, the Avengers: Age of Ultron, despite having a decent plot, is largely chaotic. After having seen the cinematic tapestry that is Captain America: Civil War brought to life by the Russo Brothers, this film gets even paler in comparison. Nonetheless, it’s still a meaningful addition to the MCU and set course for the even greater things we’ve seen and are going to see. I’d give this film a C+/B-.
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Written by: Mike Guimond